After two federal clerkships and several years as a litigator in law firms, David Mowry is happily ensconced as Counsel in Xerox Corporation’s Office of General Counsel. He specializes in commercial leasing transactions, only sometimes misses litigation, and never regrets leaving firm life. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The Senate confirmed Todd Hughes for a seat on the Federal Circuit without any opposition. This is what progress looks like: Hughes will be the first openly gay federal appellate judge in U.S. history.” ATL Morning Docket citing BuzzFeed.
It wasn’t planned, but the fact that this site mentioned the above today played to my column in this topic. Who gives two whits that Todd Hughes is gay? Is it really progress? Or just a factoid that gets too far into the personal life of a respected jurist.
I am fortunate to work with an extremely diverse group of people. Not because they are “diverse,” but because they are really good lawyers. The make up of our OGC speaks to the fact that hiring is blind at this company, and it is comforting to know that people get hired on other bases than what they look like, or their sexual orientation….
I am now officially on the downside of my 40s. Not a big deal really, but I am definitely not a “kid” anymore. My first official duty in middle age was to mow the grass. As I was going along, minding my business, I rolled over a hive of ground hornets. Eight stings later, and after ibuprofen, a stiff drink and some rest, the trauma ended. I sort of felt the same way about the reaction to last week’s column. For the record, I am not a depressed individual with nothing good to say about the profession. My message was basically an observation of the mess in which we currently find ourselves. And yes, I would advise someone with a choice, not to go to law school right now. If you are enrolled, graduated, employed, working in law, etc., it is what it is. But for those of you contemplating — I am telling you, you’ll work just as hard in a bank, and your paycheck may actually reflect the skills and intelligence required for the job. Oh, and you’ll get to tell lawyers what to do — always fun.
Today I would like to discuss an aspect of in-house life that can be alternately exciting and annoying as all get out: the ever-changing target of a business plan….
A few pending anniversaries to mention: the twelfth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks; my 45th birthday tomorrow; I have been practicing law for 14 years; and my second year of writing this column for Above the Law is fast approaching.
Really, the only date of any import is 9/11. A “first world problem” for me is that my birthday is forever the “day after” — but at least I have a day after. So many families were destroyed that day, and so many of us will forever duck a little bit when airplanes fly past our buildings. I cannot imagine working in downtown San Diego, where the approach from the East is so close to so many skyscrapers.
I won’t dwell too much on lower Manhattan today, as by now I think everyone remembers in their own way, but I will always cherish my thirtieth birthday, a surprise party held at Windows on the World, surrounded by friends and a swing band in the background. I found a picture from that party — I am hugging some buddies, and was a young buck associate at Coudert Brothers, a 150+ year old firm driven to ruin by poor cash management. Anyway, today will forever be bittersweet as I prepare to look to the future tomorrow, and will always remember that awful day 12 years ago….
The placidity of the lake outside my early morning window is calming. The middle child plays something in the background called “Minecraft,” which I don’t mind because of its New Age music, and the other two are still asleep — the oldest, exhausted from JV soccer practice, and the youngest, well, because she’s four. I can hear the crickets and early morning birds, and I think that life is pretty good. Actually, very good. We have chosen a vacation home near enough to our town that we can shuttle the oldest back and forth to workouts, and still spend our afternoons on the lake. At twelve, he doesn’t realize that we have sacrificed a true “vacation” for him, but that is fine — he caught six fish yesterday, and we were happy.
Some of us have a memory that vacations are about piling the kids into a station wagon (deathtraps that we “olds” used to ride in, sans seatbelts, as our parents smoked themselves to death in the front seats, and we rode in the rear-facing bench seat giving the universal “honk your horn” sign to truckers) and riding for hours only to find that “Wallyworld” was closed for repairs. Today’s vacations for attorneys are usually getaways that may put you in a different locale, but with a Blackberry that still demands your attention. You can try to turn it off and leave it on the bed stand, but you know that the brief will still be due or the closing date still looms. First World troubles, I know…
I am supposedly on vacation this week. However, most of us know that “vacation” is a relative term, and that it is highly rare that one actually unplugs from work 100%. Yesterday morning I was listening to talk radio (ugh!) and the host went on a rant about the unimportance of lawyers, and the “racket” that we have set up for ourselves by allowing only a select few (admitted attorneys) to practice law. He was referring to the 15 months in jail that a small town judge received by appearing in Family Court without a current license. The issue of whether her punishment is deserved or not is perhaps for another column. But, the radio blatherer’s take offended me. I would argue that lawyers are a societal necessity, and the lay public would suffer greatly without the expertise that attorneys provide. Just watch a pro se litigant go up against a seasoned litigator.
To the outside observer of courtroom proceedings, it all may seem so easy — you appear, you give your name and you argue. Just like callers to talk radio programs. But it is the minutiae that lawyers are trained to expose that makes the difference. The term of art is “attention to detail” at which we are expert. We are supposed to be able to find the holes in written documents to exploit them for our client’s advantage. We are expected to write with perfection — without a single mistake. We are pressured to win at all costs within the bounds of the law and ethics. Lay people who think we have it easy, are sorely misinformed…
I am not sure what I agreed to, or what button I selected, but yesterday Linkedin sent network invitations to seemingly everyone on the planet with whom I have ever corresponded by email. For the past two days I have received numerous invite acceptances; my once small network is now seemingly unmanageable in scope. However, some really great news has accompanied many emails. Several people with whom I have spoken over the years have written to update me on their job hunting – and the news has been universally good. I have always held the identities of those who have written in confidence, and I will continue that practice. But, I can comfortably report that jobs have been attained in government work, private practice, and in-house. The economy is tough, and hiring prospects are not back to mid-90s levels, but there are positions to be had, and to the most tenacious go the spoils.
But much bigger things happened this past week. Like getting my GA tickets to share in the groove on October 22. The boys are playing with a fervor not seen in many years, and I am very excited that the circus is coming to town. It also did nothing to stanch the flow of correspondence to my Gmail account regarding the switch from litigation in a firm to in-house work. I write today’s column with three specific people in mind….
1) I never claimed to be a Deadhead, though I love their music. I will leave that to Mr. Wallerstein. I am a committed Phishhead, and could easily have used Trey Anastasio’s bust and subsequent rehab as an example for last week’s column. However, the Furthur incident had just occurred near here and I thought it was more topical.
2) I did not intend to depress anyone with a column on alcohol, so I guess I should have been sober when writing, but that goes against my practice.
3) I am rarely shocked any more by the comments on this site, but I have to say that in my opinion, they have devolved so far into a cesspool of misogyny and lack of humor or wit, that I have decided to continue to write columns without the ability to comment. I have been doing this long enough, and been called enough names and insulted sufficiently that I have become inured to being “hurt.” If you have a genuine criticism, suggestion or correction, write me at the Gmail address.
The remnants of the Grateful Dead (Furthur) came to town last week. I was unable to attend, as I was putting on a five-hour benefit show the next day, and I knew a party the night before would not be good for me. Well, the band only got part way into the second set before stopping the show due to “weather.” Granted, there were thunderstorms about, as a cold front was finally lifting the oppressive heat wave of July 2013. But no rain was reported at the venue, and no “weather” ever materialized. Putting on my foil-hat character for a bit tells me that Bobby is still not well, or recovered enough from his bout with something or other earlier this summer. YouTube the clip of “Bob Weir falling” and see for yourself. It is not only sad to see a legend in the throes of some sort of addiction, but it is frustrating as a fan — to pay good money for a show, only to have to leave early because one of the stars couldn’t keep it together.
I have written before about mental illness in the profession, but a more insidious and pervasive issue is alcohol and drug dependency. Everyone who uses has their own story and background about how they got into alcohol or drug use, but I want to focus on the atmosphere in the legal profession: that you cannot have a gathering of attorneys without letting the booze flow. Beginning as a summer associate, and on through your career, wherever you end up, alcoholic beverages, and to a lesser extent drugs, become an omnipresent factor in your daily life. I am not here to preach or judge, just to offer a cautionary tale.
It might also have to do with the fact the we are boring as hell when in a group, and the only way to loosen up is to imbibe….
I have a desire to fulfill a Bryan Cranston-like dark fantasy when people say those phrases. Yes, it is hot enough for me, thank you, and I am now waiting with chewed fingernails to see if our benefit concert for tomorrow afternoon will be rained out due to the oncoming cold front. I also received some good news/bad news on a pro bono case I am working, and my wife is starting to get a bit touchy about my lack of focus on all things domestic. It has been one of those weeks, when all should be celebratory and positive, but the muck keeps dragging me down. But as is my practice, I keep plugging along. Just keep swimming…
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